Backpain is something of a scourge on western society. We are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, have incorrect posture, and are getting fatter and taller. Luckily the Turkmen have a unique answer to this problem: Mountain goats!
Not any old mountain goats – the less common and more interesting Turkmen Wild Goats. On one of our many trips to Turkmenistan I was lucky enough to explore some of the most untouched parts on the world near the Afghan-Turkmen border. The amazing scenery, the dinosaur footprints, and the villagers which claimed to have never met a westerner before make this a truly special part of the world. During one of our many adventures we stopped in at a “clinic” of sorts. Serdar, the owner, told us he currently had five goats, the lightest weighing 30-odd kilograms – through to the heaviest, weighing in at 135kg’s.
Here he keeps goats purely for the purpose of giving massages. The theory is you bend over 90 degrees, as if bowing, to allow the goat to jump on to your back. He walks around a bit giving you a massage. This is where it gets a bit more difficult. Due to the goat’s amazing ability to walk up the sides of cliffs, the theory is that you attempt to slowly and steadily stand up straight while the goat walks up your back towards your shoulders, until he is standing on your shoulders while you’re standing completely upright.
When we each first experienced the sensation of a goat jumping on our backs and digging its hooves in, our responses were all pretty much the same – screaming agony. Your first instinct is to either collapse or try to buck the goat off, only making the experience all the more excruciating, as this beautiful beast either attempts to jump off itself or decides to dig in and try and ride it out.
As time went on and we all made successive attempts to successfully receive our massages, we got more used to the weight and sharpness of the hooves, the only problem was that by this stage our backs were rather cut up and bruised therefore every movement of our friendly goat was still met with the clinching of teeth or some extreme nervous laughter.
Of course the locals are experts and can stand up straight seemingly effortlessly. All our group of travellers managed to get was cuts from the goats hooves, as we fell over again and again. I’m not quite sure if the goats cured any back problems or more likely left long lasting injuries but it certainly was an experience and worth the pain!